The Wonders of International Space Station

From the moment astronauts arrive, every day onboard the ISS is an exciting, challenging and stimulating experience. Every corner and cranny of ISS reveals a mini-miracle of science. Initially, ISS can seem an intimidating place to work, harbouring  a wealth of complicated equipment, a multitude of more than 50 computers and more than 12 km of electrical wiring & the challenge of living in microgravity.


ISS is basically your home as well as your office, for months at a time where you work hard, perform experiments, eat, sleep, exercise and spend time with colleagues. Life on board rapidly falls into a routine and becomes normal, even though only  a few millimeters of aluminium protect you from the vacuum of space.


This normalization process is essential. In order to function efficiently and productively as a crew member on the ISS, you can’t be constantly distracted by the amazement and wonder of circling the planet 16 times a day while travelling at ten times the speed of a bullet–as thrilling as that is.


The ISS is the most sophisticated human-made structure ever built. Weighing more than 400 tonnes and covering an area as big as a football pitch, the ISS orbits Earth approximately 400 km above the surface, travelling at a speed of 27,600 km/h. This means it circumnavigates the earth every 90 minutes.


The space station is basically made up of a number of pressurized modules that serve as scientific laboratories, docking ports, airlocks, storage and habitation areas. Then there is a 'truss' that forms the spine of the space station. The truss consists of 12 metal lattice structures that span the 109 meter width of the space station, containing many of the components that keep the ISS alive, such as power, cooling, communications, altitude and control systems. The truss also houses a number of logistics platforms where many spare components have been pre-stored. Attached to the left side of the truss are radiators (waffle-shaped panels with ammonia flowing through them, to avoid excess heat that builds up in the station).


At each end of the truss are giant solar arrays, which turn sunlight into electricity. The truss has a joint that enables these solar panels to rotate 360 degrees to track the Sun. These wide, flat solar panels cover a total area of approximately 2,500 square meters  and produce up to 120 kilowatts of electricity, sufficient power for 40 average homes. During darkness, batteries stored in the truss, which are charged during daylight, provide power to the ISS.


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